Speakers at SMC3‘s Jump Start 2020 supply chain conference, coming to Atlanta this January, will explore emerging trends, current challenges and new innovations in the supply chain.
Eric Stone, Johnson and Johnson’s senior manager of domestic sourcing and supplier performance, recently took the time to discuss the current state of the transportation market, which previews his remarks from the Jump Start stage, as well as how he thinks shippers benefit from attending SMC3 conferences.
When you look at the calendar of industry conferences for the year, how do you decide which events might be worth the investment of time and money?
Since I handle all domestic modes with the exception of parcel, I get invited to many conferences each year. I try to vary the conferences that I attend from year to year so I can get a mix of ideas, information, and industry knowledge from different sources.
I look for conferences that are going to represent a broad range of topics, everything from market trends, technology, regulatory information and innovation. I also look for conferences that have opportunities to network with other shippers where I can gain some insights about what others are doing in the domestic transportation space. This benchmarking information is just as valuable as the conference content.
With all that said, I definitely have my favorites which I make a point to attend every year. The conferences that I don’t attend: ones that are a constant sales pitch from start to finish!
How did you first become aware of Connections and Jump Start?
In 2017, we expanded our relationship with SMC³ at which time we learned about the different conferences that are offered. While we weren’t able to attend the conferences right away due to other commitments, we were able to prioritize the Connections conference in 2019. Because of the positive experience that we had at Connections, we decided to attend the Jump Start conference in January 2020.
What were your impressions of the content and networking events at Connections 2019?
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Connections 2019. However, I was blown away by the information that was shared and the level of speakers that were on stage. There were CEOs sharing industry insights, high-ranking members of the government explaining the regulatory landscape, and leaders in technology talking about the latest trends in transportation technology. The content covered a wide variety of topics and was extremely well-rounded. In addition to the content, there were plenty of opportunities to network with other shippers and carriers alike. From the meals during the day all the way to the evening activities, networking opportunities were embedded in the entire conference.
How does SMC³’s conference networking events fit your business objectives?
The informal nature of networking at SMC³ was the key to networking success. Forced networking has its place and can certainly work but natural, casual networking yields much better results. SMC³ provided that setting at Connections through all of the different activities that they hosted: golf outings, excursions, evening cocktail events, dinner/concert. This fits my business objectives by allowing me to informally benchmark with other shippers and also explore capabilities of 3PLs/carriers in a casual, unforced setting.
As a shipper, what key challenges and trends did you see emerging in 2019?
The biggest trend that I see in transportation is analytics. No longer is it enough to be a company that simply provides traditional transportation services. Companies that are able to provide analytics in the form of recommendations for shippers to better manage their networks will grow leaps and bounds ahead of companies that stick to the traditional model of just providing a truck. The same goes for a shipper’s transportation department. Business partners internal to the shipper are looking for the transportation department to provide proactive solutions to problems that don’t yet exist. I see the game changing over the next 2-3 years, and I think the change could be drastic.
How should retailers prepare themselves for changes in the freight transportation marketplace?
My biggest piece of advice in this area is to not take your eye off the ball. What do I mean? During the crazy market changes we saw in 2018, many companies increased their focus on transportation initiatives such as better financial management within transportation, shipper-of-choice initiatives, and developing longer-term capacity growth strategies. Now that the market has stabilized, it is easy to lose focus on those initiatives because they aren’t as “necessary” as they were a year ago.
I would argue, though, that this is the time for 3PLs, carriers and shippers to work together on continuous improvement to ensure we are all prepared for the next market disruption.